HOUSTON (NBA/FIBA Basketball World Cup) - There were many reasons why Turkey's national team struggled this summer in the Qualification Round for the EuroBasket.
Turkey booked a trip to Slovenia for the Final Round, which will serve as Europe's qualifying event for the inaugural FIBA Basketball World Cup, after winning their last game against the Czech Republic, a win that gave them five victories and three defeats.
It wouldn't have taken as long to seal a place in next year's event for Turkey, though, had Omer Asik been in the squad.
A 2.14m center who burst onto the national team scene in 2009 at the EuroBasket in Poland and then played a vital role as Turkey captured the silver medal at the 2010 FIBA World Championship, Asik also competed last year at the EuroBasket in Lithuania when Turkey attempted to reach the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament but finished a disappointing 11th.
Yet this summer, the 26-year-old was out of the national team picture.
Asik, as many other national team players have done, stayed away to rest after a hard campaign with Chicago, and to focus on his switch from the Bulls to the Houston Rockets.
Having formed what was affectionately known as the Bench Mob in Chicago, Asik will no longer come off the bench.
In Texas, Asik will start.
"Actually, when I decided to come to the NBA, my goal was to be a starting center in this league," he said.
"I'm very happy about it."
Looking to get better
Every player can improve his game, and Asik certainly knows he can.
He guards the basket with an unrivalled ferocity but offensively, he has limitations.
He will have every opportunity to grow on offense because the coach of the Rockets is Kevin McHale, one of the all-time great centers in the league.
McHale won titles with the Boston Celtics and played alongside Larry Bird, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson and Danny Ainge.
"I know it looks like the offense is the missing part of my game now," Asik said, "but I believe in myself I can improve that.
"I am working hard every day.
"In Chicago, I didn't show too much because I was playing very nervous. I just did what they asked me. I'm sure … I can improve that.
"I am very happy I will be with Kevin McHale, a legendary post player. I think I will learn a lot from him and will get better."
At his introductory press conference in Houston, Rockets vice president Sam Hinkie spoke with a lot of enthusiasm about Asik.
"We believe … 7-footers like Omer are in short supply," Hinkie said.
"He's an outstanding help defender. He's a rim protector. He rebounds on both ends of the floor.
"He's proven this throughout his career, at every stop on team after team, first as a professional in Europe, for his national team in Turkey and then most recently for the last few seasons in the NBA in Chicago.
"Young centers in our league that have proven they can impact an NBA game are scarce. Really, really scarce."
Turkey gave some of their youngsters invaluable experience this summer but Asik will be back next year and that will no doubt allow them to turn up their game a notch.
Turkey are definitely a team to look out for in 2013, and the following summer in Spain.